Toronto Public Library cutting services to SickKids Reading Room

Say it ain't so. Below is an open letter from Valerie McDonald, former SickKids Family Advisory Committee chair, expressing her dismay at planned cuts to SickKids library services reducing book and multi-media and multi-language services to Canada's sickest kids and their families. The Toronto Public Library meeting minutes are underneath - please forward and consider registering disagreement with the decision.

The Secretary
Toronto Public Library Board
789 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario M4W 2G8

Dear Board Members,

I was dismayed to learn that the Toronto Public Library Board has made a decision to withdraw services from the Reading Room at Sick Kids. Two of my children were treated for cancer at the hospital and we were frequent users of the Reading Room during their collective 2 years as in-patients. During that time, my daughters were able to keep up with school projects using the reference collection, enjoyed presentations by visiting authors and found refuge from treatments, tests and noise.

I’m concerned that without the expertise of librarians to support the program, and without the partnership of the Toronto Public Library, the collection and services provided to families and children will be compromised. Because of the joint sponsorship, for example, librarians order books, audio-books and other resources for children of all ages, including infants and pre-schoolers, while TDSB has a mandate to serve only school age children. In addition, the TPL connection allows librarians to access resources such as multi-lingual books and DVDs through inter-library loans. Their expertise greatly benefits families from diverse communities who find the hospital experience particularly frightening and overwhelming.

Several years ago, the TDSB made significant cuts to the teaching staff provided to students at the hospital because of a peculiarity in the Education Funding formula. The formula dictates that the board can only receive funding for children registered as TDSB students. However, as you know, Sick Kids serves children from all across Ontario and Canada, most of whom are in and out of hospital and therefore retain their enrollment in their home schools. A minor compromise was reached between the board and the Ministry of Education so that the cuts were not as dramatic as those first proposed, but they did reduce the access children had to hospital teachers. Because of that experience, I worry that Sick Kids programs will always be more vulnerable to cuts in TDSB programs whenever the board faces difficult financial choices, just because the hospital is an anomaly for all of its funders. Without the support from the TPL, it will be even more difficult for the school board to continue to provide adequate service at Sick Kids.

The children who use the services of the Reading Room are among the sickest and most vulnerable in Canada. A strong partnership between teachers and librarians to provide a normal and enriching childhood experience adds tremendously to their healing in a way that is difficult to quantify. I urge you to reconsider your decision.


Valerie McDonald

Toronto Public library 2010 budget cuts target hospital lending services to SickKids families

The relevant December 14, 2009 Board meeting minutes discusses the cutting of in-hospital services (reprinted below) and catalogues other lost cultural and learning opportunities.

Reduce Hospital Services ($0.105 million, 1.4 FTE)

As part of the Home Library Service review conducted in 2000, the Library Board
approved the discontinuation of staffed institutional deposits where opportunities existed for the institutions to play more of a role in the provision of library services. Staff explored all opportunities which resulted in replacing most of the staffed institutional service with deposit collections coordinated by institutional staff and volunteers. Out of 24 institutional service locations that existed at that time, four remain: Bridgepoint Health, the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Sunnybrook Health Science Centre and the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children.

Service at Bridgepoint Health and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute includes programs and bedside service to residing patients. Both hospitals are long-term care facilities. Adjusting the current service model to one based on deposit collections that are coordinated by hospital staff and volunteers would standardize the Library’s institutional service at these locations and result in estimated savings of $0.065 million in staff costs (1.0 FTE).

In addition, Library collections, services and programs provided in partnership with Toronto District School Board, to children who are patients at the Hospital for Sick Children would no longer be provided by TPL, resulting in additional estimated savings of $0.040 million (0.4 FTE).

There are no changes considered for the Sunnybrook Hospital where the federal
Department of Veteran Affairs covers two-thirds of the costs of library service and
collections for veterans residing at the hospital.

The civic cost of budget cuts is best described in cold clinical bureaucratic bluntness, such as the action item Reduce Branch Programming ($0.120 million)

Reduced recreational, cultural and educational programming across our Research &
Reference and Branch libraries would impact children, teen/youth, newcomers, adult and older adult audiences, and would include fewer author events; arts, culture and
entertainment activities; hobbies and leisure, and life-long learning programs. It would also reduce performance and employment opportunities for local artists, authors, performers and storytellers. Estimated total savings amount to $0.120 million, as follows: ...